Back in 2003, my friend Krista Baker and I made a mad, one-day road trip through as many Brooklyn and Queens (New York) cemeteries as we could. We covered about twenty miles of territory from Flatbush to Flushing, basically following Route 278 (the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) west. We didn’t spend much time on the highway, though, using paper road maps (remember them?) to navigate from one cemetery to the next through the densely populated commercial and residential neighborhoods. It was a whirlwind tour, and I was shooting film, basically looking for angel statues with which to create artistic, high-contrast black and white images. Luckily, Krista was shooting digital, and more competently documented our tour with her many wonderful color photographs (the photos in this article are hers, with exceptions noted).
|Image by Ed Snyder|
|Green-Wood's Gothic Entrance Arch|
|By Ed Snyder|
When Krista and I visited all these places, we were mainly looking for interesting statues and architecture. I don’t think it occurred to either of us that there would be famous, or even infamous people buried in them. In retrospect, it would have been interesting to see Dizzy Gillespie’s grave in Flushing Cemetery or Charles Atlas’ grave at St. John in Queens. Even where the presence of notables was obvious, I don’t recall us being drawn to them. Brooklyn’s massive Green-Wood Cemetery, for instance, where framed photographs of all the famous interred hang on the wall of the office (including Leonard Bernstein and Basquiat, for instance), did not seem to rouse our interest much. We were just enthralled with the sculptures in these magnificent Victorian garden cemeteries.
|Image by Krista Baker|
|Image by Krista Baker|
|From the book, Silent Cities – The Evolution of the American Cemetery|
The authors of Silent Cities, Jackson and Vergara, tell us, “The overwhelming emphasis in American cemeteries is on hopeful images which exclude death and decay.” On page 84, in the chapter, “American Images of Death,” we find a photograph of the very same white marble monument with Father Time with which Krista and I were so enthralled. It incorporates pretty much every bit of mourning art symbolism of the Victorian era – Father Time (or is it the Grim Reaper?), a designated female mourner with palm frond, broken column, the funerary urn, the open book, and the “time flies” winged-hourglass! (Did I miss anything?!) The book tells us it rests on the grave of a Mason in the Lutheran Cemetery in Queens. I remember this place having lots of shade trees and being in a sort of small-town residential location. Perhaps the trees have provided some shelter from the acid rain - there appears to be very little weathering of the marble sculptures. The monument may have also avoided vandals because of its high pedestal.
|From the book, Silent Cities|